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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2004 Apr;86(4):629-47.

Differing conceptions of moral exemplarity: just, brave, and caring.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada. lawrence.walker@ubc.ca


People's conceptions of different types of moral exemplarity were examined in an attempt to augment the current emphasis on moral rationality with a fuller understanding of moral personality. In Study 1 (with 805 adults), a free-listing procedure was used to generate the attributes of 3 types of moral exemplars (just, brave, and caring). In Study 2 (with 401 undergraduates), prototypicality- and personality-rating procedures were used to generate a personality profile for each type of moral exemplar and to examine the relations among them. In Study 3 (with 240 undergraduates), a similarity-sorting procedure was used to identify the typologies implicit in people's understanding of these different types of moral exemplarity. The findings indicate that moral excellence can be exemplified in rather divergent ways and that understanding of moral functioning would be enhanced by attention to this wider range of moral virtues.

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